The number of Louisville EMS overdose runs and patients receiving a dose of naloxone from first responders hit a nearly two-year low in November, continuing the downward trend since the city’s opioid epidemic peaked this February.
Louisville EMS had 483 overdose runs in November, with 112 patients on those runs receiving a dose of naloxone, the drug that revives people who have overdosed on opioids such as heroin and fentanyl. Both numbers were the lowest monthly total in Louisville since February of 2016, which was a month before Louisville’s health department first warned of the increased presence of fentanyl — an opioid up to 100 times more potent than heroin — in the local market leading to a spike in fatal overdoses.
In February, just shy of 400 patients received a dose of naloxone on EMS overdose runs. Four of the top five months in naloxone patient totals over the past two years occurred consecutively from December of 2016 through March, though this total has remained below 200 in each of the subsequent eight months and has declined in each of the last four months.
Though these overdose statistics have declined of late, Louisville in 2017 has already eclipsed the yearly total of overdose runs and naloxone administrations from the previous year, and the totals from this November are still greater than every single month in 2015.
Additionally, records obtained by IL from the Jefferson County Coroner’s office show that despite the recent decline in naloxone administrations, the number of fatal drug overdoses through the first eight months of 2017 had nearly surpassed the record-high recorded in 2016. The coroner’s office records showed 324 accidental fatal drug overdoses last year. Through August of this year that total already had surpassed 300. In January and February of 2017 alone, the office recorded 111 fatal overdoses, which was more than half the total from all of 2015.
Dr. Sarah Moyer, the director of the Louisville Metro Department of Public Health and Wellness, told IL in a statement that she is encouraged to see the number of overdose runs declining in recent months, “which indicates that our effort to educate the public about naloxone is working.
“But we still are seeing too many overdose deaths,” she said, “and reducing that number remains a focus for us.”